The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line in 2016 was a model of inconsistency — both in personnel and performance.
The pass protection was good for most part and the quality never really fluctuated throughout the year with the line giving up just 34 sacks and 85 hits on Blake Bortles, both slightly below the league average. The run blocking was up and down, with the team rushing for as little as 48 yards in three of the first seven games, but then rushing for 154 yards or more in four of the final nine games. The team’s underperforming stable of running backs carry some of the blame for that, but anyone who watched this team knows the offensive line was a paragon of variance.
The starting five headed into the regular season gave us hope. Luke Joeckel wasn’t the disappointment we expected at left guard. Kelvin Beachum was clearly the best option at left tackle and a solid pickup in the late stages of free agency last spring. Brandon Linder did well at center, even though his natural position was guard. A.J. Cann was coming off a superb rookie season. And Jermey Parnell, while not great in 2015, played well enough to make us think all the pieces were there.
Then Luke Joeckel went down for the season. Then his backup in Patrick Omameh went down for the season. Then his backup in Chris Reed went down for the season. And then offensive tackles started playing interior line positions because Tyler Shatley and Luke Bowanko were filling in for an injured Brandon Linder at center by season’s end.
In all, the Jaguars lost four offensive linemen to season-ending injuries this year. Only Parnell and Cann, the most disappointing players on the line this year, played all 1,112 offensive snaps for the Jaguars. Beachum played 1,023 snaps. Linder played 908 snaps. Omameh (453), Reed (334), and Joeckel (221), made up the revolving door at left guard.
But I don’t think injuries were the biggest factor in what was a disappointing year. The team got immediately better when offensive coordinator Greg Olson was replaced by Nathaniel Hackett after seven games, going from 72.6 rushing yards per game to 124.8 rushing yards per game.
Better than average pass protection? A running game that got more productive with a new offensive coordinator? I’ll say this falls somewhere slightly above average overall.
On any given week, this line could be counted on to pave the way for a little more than 100 yards on the ground and allow the quarterback to be sacked twice and hit two or three more times than that. There are pieces here with the right adjustments.
I think re-signing Beachum would be a good move. Parnell was by far the worst player on this line and allowed the most sacks with 7.5 this year, but how does the 2017 free agent market look at right tackle? I honestly don’t know. Can the Jaguars get an upgrade there? Is it worth it? Joeckel is likely leaving for more money than we’ll offer him.
Drafting some interior linemen is a no-brainer for the Jaguars this year. Bowanko can’t get healthy. Shatley is bad, giving up a sack once every 105 snaps for the Jaguars (second-worst on the team). Wells somehow contributed to Bortles getting sacked despite playing just 11 offensive snaps this year. This position group will look very different in 2017, especially the backups. And I think that’s a good thing.